‘Some­one was scream­ing for help’


They came. They saw. They con­quered.

Paramedics Sa­man­tha McLean, Chanelle Frap­pier-Doyon, Jen­nyfer Leblanc and Su­san Easter were re­spond­ing last Sat­ur­day to a call on Barry Street in Min­now Lake. As they were leav­ing the build­ing with their pa­tient, they no­ticed smoke.

The four paramedics jumped into ac­tion. McLean stayed back with the pa­tient while her three col­leagues did a lit­tle re­con.

They ini­tially thought it was a back­yard fire, but it turns out the smoke was ac­tu­ally com­ing from an apart­ment unit on the sec­ond floor. “My co­work­ers put their para­medic equip­ment away then went to help with the fire ex­tin­guish­ers to see if they could ex­tin­guish the fire,” McLean said. “Within two min­utes, they no­ticed the sec­ond storey was in flames.”

They no­ti­fied dis­patch and started or­ga­niz­ing.

“We just did a di­vide and con­quer sit­u­a­tion,” McLean said. “Jen­nyfer went to go evac­u­ate the town­houses to the left of the build­ing; Chanelle evac­u­ated the town­houses that had the apart­ment unit on fire; and Su­san came over and she was help­ing.”

McLean said she and her col­leagues “all no­ticed some­one was scream­ing for help from in­side.”

It turns out the woman whose apart­ment was on fire went back into the build­ing to try to ex­tin­guish the fire. She had thrown some­thing out­side – McLean thinks it may have been pil­lows – and it was smoul­der­ing on the lawn.

“When she ran back in­side, she got dis­ori­ented with all the smoke and ev­ery­thing, and she went to the first level and she was scream­ing for help,” McLean said. “Su­san no­ticed her run­ning to­wards the win­dow. Su­san man­aged to get her to open the win­dow. They broke the screen and pulled her out of the win­dow on the bot­tom storey. From there, we treated her across the park­ing lot.”

McLean had been with the ini­tial pa­tient, who could walk, so when the paramedics re­al­ized the fire would re­quire ev­ery­one’s at­ten­tion, she told the pa­tient to “stay put” while she di­rected res­i­dents away from the build­ing. McLean re­mained in close prox­im­ity to the am­bu­lance through­out the ordeal.

The scene was one of or­ga­nized chaos.

“It was a lot of run­ning around, but it was or­ga­nized at the same time,” McLean said.

The four women man­aged to evac­u­ate the apart­ment build­ing. Only one woman suf­fered some mi­nor in­juries for which she was treated at Health Sciences North.

The fire­fight­ers ar­rived within five to seven min­utes.

McLean said she and her col­leagues are proud “it was four women on a com­plete fluke,” but they are still in shock.

“We’re all still try­ing to wrap our heads around it, be­cause we don’t ever face any­thing to that ex­tent,” she said. “We’re all just still in shock at the whole sever­ity of ev­ery­thing that hap­pened.”

McLean, 26, has been work­ing with the ser­vice for nearly two years. Frap­pier-Doyon has three years un­der her belt; Easter has been a para­medic for 20 years and Leblanc, seven years. McLean said the city’s para­medic ser­vice is about 42 per cent fe­male these days.

“It was nat­u­ral; we all split up and were do­ing dif­fer­ent things, but at the end of the day, we were do­ing what we’re trained to do – gain con­trol of the sit­u­a­tion, keep every­body out of harm’s way while we were keep­ing our­selves out of harm’s way, as well,” McLean said.

McLean said none of the paramedics was in­jured dur­ing the call, although they were “a lit­tle raspy” at the end of it, but she at­tributes that to yelling and or­ga­niz­ing, as much as to smoke.

“We def­i­nitely don’t have an ev­ery­day job; we’re def­i­nitely faced with cir­cum­stances the ev­ery­day nine-to-fiver never gets to see,” McLean said. “It’s a lit­tle bit ex­cit­ing and a lit­tle bit scary at the same time to know we can be go­ing on a reg­u­lar call and then it turns into this mas­sive in­ci­dent, which seems to be a huge learn­ing point for ev­ery­one in­volved.”


Jen­nyfer Leblanc (left), Chanelle Frap­pier-Doyon and Sa­man­tha McLean take a mo­ment to rest at para­medic HQ in Azilda. The three women, along with col­league Su­san Easter, res­cued a woman from a burn­ing build­ing on Sat­ur­day.

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